NAGASAKI – Police here said a 12-year-old junior high school student has admitted to murdering Shun Tanemoto, the 4-year-old boy who was abducted and killed last week.
Police took the boy into custody Wednesday after identifying the youth from security camera footage.
Investigators said that when asked why he abducted the boy, the student alluded to wanting to molest him.
“I regret it,” police quoted the boy as saying. “I want to say sorry to Shun’s father and mother.”
Tanemoto’s parents released a statement in which they said their “hearts were boiling with rage” and that even if the suspect is a junior high school student, he should be subject to capital punishment.
Investigative sources said police believe the 12-year-old may have also been involved in other recent assaults targeting young boys.
Under the Criminal Code, children under 14 who are suspected of having committed crimes are not held criminally responsible. Investigators said they will transfer the boy to a child welfare center Thursday in line with the Child Welfare Law.
Welfare center officials said they intend to turn the case over to a family court the same day.
When asked to comment on the fact that the suspect is a 12-year-old, Hideo Kamikawa, head of the division of the prefectural police that handled the investigation, said that despite the case being solved he still felt empty and sad.
The student, who is in his first year at a junior high school in the city, was taken into custody in the morning. He was taking part in extracurricular activities with other students outside school when apprehended.
No teachers were around at the time, and the school only became aware of what had happened after one of the other students at the scene called to tell staff, school officials said. Police said they notified the boy’s parents in advance that they would bring him in for questioning.
On July 2, Tanemoto’s naked and battered body was found in a pool of blood beside a multilevel parking garage, roughly 4 km from the Nagasaki electronics store where he went missing the evening before. Police said they believe the boy was thrown to his death from the top of the eight-story garage.
According to the facts surrounding the case as presented by investigators, the student abducted Tanemoto from the electronics shop at around 7:20 p.m. on July 1. He then took the local tram and threw the child from the garage roof at around 9:15 p.m.
The video footage was taken just after 8 p.m. July 1 by a security camera on a shopping street about 160 meters from the garage. The male seen walking with Shun was wearing a white short-sleeved shirt, black pants and white shoes, an outfit resembling the summer uniform of a junior high school in the city.
Investigators made out markings on the left breast of his shirt that matched the school’s emblem. Footprints found on the roof of the garage also matched the tread pattern of rubber-soled sneakers produced in Japan that have been recommended by the school for use by its pupils, according to police.
The garage is located at the end of the shopping arcade and is about 100 meters from Nagasaki Prefectural Police headquarters.
Tanemoto, who had gone to the electronics store with his parents, vanished shortly after telling them he was going to its video game section.
Investigators believe the suspect may have had a role in other recent assaults on area children because of similarities in the nature of the crimes.
Witnesses in those cases reported seeing a boy who looked like the 12-year-old.
Two young boys were molested and another was assaulted in April at a commercial complex about 1 km from the electronics store, according to police.
Commenting on the latest development in the Nagasaki case, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said Japanese society as a whole should reflect on the matter. He also called for a review of crime-prevention measures.
Violent crimes committed by youths have shocked the nation in recent years, including the 1997 strangling of an 11-year-old Kobe boy by a 14-year-old youth who later cut his victim’s head off and left it outside a school gate. The suspect also attacked four schoolgirls earlier that year, killing one of them.
Last weekend, three teenagers were arrested for allegedly beating a 13-year-old schoolmate to death in late June and left his body in a cemetery in Chatan, Okinawa Prefecture.